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8 TV Actors Axed Before The Show Even Aired

Esquire UK logo Esquire UK 5 days ago Tom Eames
8 TV Actors Axed Before The Show Even Aired © undefined 8 TV Actors Axed Before The Show Even Aired

You've just been cast in what could be the next big TV smash. Amazing news! You've even filmed the pilot, this is a slam dunk.

Wait, who's that new guy? Why are they dressed like me? Why am I being roughed up by security?

This is a sad tale experienced by various actors over the years. For whatever reason, they were axed and replaced by a rival before the pilot episode even aired. Here are just a few cases you might not have heard about before:

1. Jenna Fischer in Man with a Plan

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The Office favourite was originally cast as Matt LeBlanc's wife in the 2016 sitcom, but after filming a pilot, she was axed due to a "chemistry" issue. And instead of replacing the Friends actor, they got rid of Jen.

Step forward Liz Snyder as new Andi in the show about a man who takes over his wife's parenting duties after she returns to work. Despite poor reviews, the show was renewed for a second season in March.

2. Stephen Tobolowsky in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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You'll know Stephen best for being Ned.... Ryerson! Needlenose Ned! Ned the Head! in Groundhog Day opposite Bill Murray. Don't tell him you don't remember him because he sure as heckfire remembers you. Bing!

But he might have landed an even bigger role if it had gone his way.

He was the original Principal Flutie in the unaired pilot episode of Buffy, before he was replaced by Ken Lerner. Explaining the decision on a Reddit AMA years later, Stephen explained: "I was under contract to ABC for a different show that started in two weeks. I don't know if that had anything to do with me not doing anymore Buffys. But I was happy to do it. Wish I had stayed with it. It would've been nice."

3. Lisa Kudrow in Frasier

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Just a year before Lisa found worldwide fame in Friends, she was originally cast as Frasier Crane's colleague Roz. However, she was axed after rehearsals and replaced by Peri Gilpin.

When asked why Lisa was replaced, co-creator Peter Casey said in 2006: "By the third day of rehearsals it was becoming apparent to Jim Burrows, Kelsey [Grammer], and the three of us that things weren't going so well with Lisa as Roz. Although she remained funny in her quirky way, we found that each day we were re-writing the character less strong because Lisa just didn't play forceful."

4. Jennifer Ehle in Game of Thrones

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Pride and Prejudice star Jennifer actually played the role of Catelyn Stark in the unaired pilot of Game of Thrones back in 2009. However, HBO later announced that she was leaving the series a year later.

Michelle Fairley ended up playing the role of Ned Stark's wife, and Ehle's scenes were reshot. Ehle later said that although she loved the series, it fell too soon after the birth of her daughter and she couldn't commit to such a long project at the time.

5. Richard Kiel in The Incredible Hulk

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We all loved Richard Kiel thanks to his role as Jaws in several James Bond movies, but he was also almost a TV icon too.

Kiel filmed the pilot episode of the 1978 live-action Incredible Hulk series as David Banner's green alter ego. However, producers soon realised they wanted Hulk to be muscular rather than just MASSIVE.

Kiel, who could only see out of one eye, also reacted badly to the contact lenses used on the show, and the green makeup proved tricky to get off, so he was pretty happy to be leaving. Lou Ferrigno ended up coming on board instead.

6. Rebecca Gayheart in Firefly

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Back in 2002, Scream 2 star Rebecca was hired to play Inara Serra in Joss Whedon's new sci-fi series.

However, she was fired from the show after just one day of filming. Ouch. This was apparently because Whedon felt that there was a lack of chemistry between her and the rest of the cast.

Morena Baccarin quickly replaced her, and was already filming her first scene on the same day she was cast.

7. Riff Regan in Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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It's hard to imagine anyone but Alyson Hannigan as Willow, but she wasn't the first choice.

Actress Riff Regan was cast in the original pilot episode, but something wasn't quite right. Casting director Marcia Shulman explained on the show's DVD special features: "It just didn't work. So when we got picked up, we always felt that we were going to start again and look for another Willow.

"The qualities that Willow had to have are the exact opposite qualities of what actresses have to have. Sort of insecure, shy, self-effacing. Every line that somebody else would play like they were sad, Alyson was joyful about. That made her the only one for the role."

Riff Regan's last acting role was in 2000, while Alyson went on to find further success in American Pie and How I Met Your Mother.

8. Alex Borstein in Gilmore Girls

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Alex is now best known for voicing Lois Griffin in Family Guy, but she nearly had a big live-action role, too.

After playing Lorelai's best friend Sookie in the pilot, she ended up having to leave as her MADtv contract prevented her from continuing. In the end, Melissa McCarthy was cast and the rest is history.

However, Alex did return to the drama, playing both harpist Drella and Miss Celine, as well as providing the voice of an angry Doris speaking on the answering machine of Lorelai's neighbour Dwight.

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